Originally founded in St. Louis amidst performances presented by ANNONYArts, director Ashley McQueen relocated Smashworks to New York City in 2015. After three years of company development, McQueen joined forces with friend Ana Lejava to launch Smashworks Advocacy, an initiative dedicated to the integration of human rights activism and performance.
LAURIE DÉZIEL was born in Shawinigan, Canada. She trained at L’École de danse contemporaine de Montréal, The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and was a scholarship graduate of The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance where she worked alongside Graham II. She performed in Heretic at The Martha Graham Company’s 90th Anniversary Season at the New York City Center. Laurie was a choreographer and soloist for the Balasole Dance Company’s season MIXTUS presented at the Ailey CitiGroup Theatre. She works as a freelance dancer, actor and model for various project companies in the city. She is excited to embark on her 3rd season with Smashworks Dance as a proud performing artist and human rights advocate.
Sarah Dodd hails from Syracuse, NY and recently graduated from the University at Buffalo where she earned a BFA in Dance. In her training, Sarah has attended Bates Dance Festival and performed works by Hilary Easton, Shen Wei Dance Arts, Robert Battle, Jennifer Archibald, and Koresh Dance Company. Sarah also presented choreography at the SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference and represented the school at the ACDA Northeastern Conference. Since her move to the city, Sarah has performed and continued to work with Smashworks Dance Collective and Now Dance Project.
Manon Hallay was born in France. She started dancing in the Conservatoire de Tarbes and went to Bordeaux at 13 to study in a pre-professional course. Two years later she has been accepted to the Royal Ballet School of Antwerpen and had the opportunity to work with choreographer as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui or Micheal Shannon. She moved out to New-York 5 years ago to integrate the Alvin Ailey school as a scholarship student. She is now dancing for several dance company including Amanda Selwyn Dance Theater, Smashworks Dance, and Les Ballets Nomades.
Sarah Starkweather is a dancer and fitness professional living in New York City. Since 2009, Sarah has performed over 100 times with professional dance companies from Texas, Missouri, and New York. Sarah has worked with choreographers such as Jennifer Archibald, Amanda Selwyn, Liz Imperio, Ashle Dawson, Mitzi Adams, Ashley L. Tate, Jennifer Medina, and Ashley McQueen. Sarah holds a BA in Psychology from The University of Texas at San Antonio during which time she also began her classical training with Catalina Garza, Ernesto Quenedit and Esther Mayer of The Cuban National and Royal Ballet, respectively. Sarah is a founding member of the San Antonio Dance Fringe, and continues to teach technical and leadership workshops across the United States through MA Dance, for whom she also adjudicates regional and national dance competitions. Sarah has been a certified fitness trainer since 2014 and currently teaches group fitness classes for Equinox.
Director of Smashworks Advocacy
Born and raised in Tbilisi, Georgia Ana Lejava is a New York City-based dancer, choreographer, teaching artist and social entrepreneur. She received her early classical ballet training at the Tbilisi V. Chabukiani State Ballet Art School, under the artistic director, Nina Ananiashvili, where her first ballet teacher was Georgian ballet icon and the niece of George Balanchine, Tsiskari Balanchivadze. She continued her training and later graduated from the Kirov Academy of Ballet under the mentorship of Oleg Vinogradov and Marat Daukayev. She was a member of Atlantic City Ballet, and has toured the States with the full-length classical ballets, such as Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and works by Frederick Ashton and other prominent choreographers. She has guest performed for the Brighton Ballet Theater, Staten Island Ballet, Alabama Youth Ballet Company, and Georgian National Dance Company.
Ana has been teaching and choreographing for the School of Russian American Ballet in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Manhattan for the past four years. She is actively involved with the dance education across the city and has been producing productions for the New York City public schools. Ana acquired her additional training at the Limon Institute, where she had an opportunity to perform classics by Jose Limon, and dive deeply into the traditions and aesthetic of American modern dance.
Ana has a bachelor's degree in Dance and Political Science from the Birmingham-Southern College and has received BSC’s Fine Arts Society Award for Excellence in Dance. She has graduated college with Magna Cum Laude, political science and leadership studies honors.
Along with her dancing career, Ana has worked for the intergovernmental and human rights organizations, including the United Nations on the human rights, cultural and social issues. She served as a Young Ambassador of Georgia to the United States for the 2016 and 2017 years, working closely with the members of the Georgian diaspora, promoting cultural exchange amongst the youth. She has initiated and led charity performance series for the Internally Displaced Children and Youth in the Bordering Villages of the South Ossetia, (Georgia) and has been passionate about helping refugee children and the youth.
She is happy to be joining Smashworks Dance Collective as a fellow performer and leading its Community Action efforts. She firmly believes in the transformative nature of the arts and is looking forward to working with the Smashworks' team to address important social justice and human rights issues through dance.
Dunya Habash, Advocacy Associate
Dunya Habash completed an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the University of Oxford in 2017 and is currently working as a researcher at the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, UK. She also worked as a research assistant for Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford. She holds undergraduate degrees in Music and History from Birmingham-Southern College, where she embarked on her first substantive project with Syrian refugees, a documentary on Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp, 'Zaatari: Jordan's Newest City'. That work led her to the programme in Refugee Studies at Oxford and a TEDx talk in Birmingham, AL. Dunya is excited to join the Smashworks family as a senior consultant on refugee and migration issues, which combines her passion for art and advocacy in relation to pressing social issues.
Consultant on Refugee and Migration Issues works directly with the Smashworks Advocacy team and advises it on its Smashing Borders’ campaign strategy and programming. She is responsible for monitoring our advocacy efforts by providing research on issues relating to the human rights of refugees and migrants, including legal representation, detention, U.S. asylum law and policy, international refugee protection and resettlement policies, as well as academic research and polling data, describing trends in public opinion towards migrants and refugees.